From 2008 to 2010, Boston and eight surrounding cities and towns installed surveillance cameras provided by a grant through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Urban Areas Security Initiative. DHS’ website describes the cameras as part of a system that has “nine, independent and interoperable nodes tied together through a central hub and is made up of over 100 cameras.” The cameras were justified for the protection of “critical infrastructure” from terrorist attack, but their use has faced scrutiny from citizens concerned about threats to civil liberties. In Brookline and Cambridge, two municipalities covered by the grant, residents are using local governments to attempt to ban surveillance cameras.
Posts Tagged ‘Fourth Amendment’
Residents of San Diego county are justifiably concerned that new drone technology will soon be tested over their homes and schools. The area has recently been approved as an official FAA drone testing site. The people of Julian CA, in San Diego County, packed a crowded forum on the test site hosted by Back Country Voices. The event brought together a meeting of the minds to brainstorm ways to hold their local government accountable for brokering this deal with the FAA. Their concerns went beyond mere privacy concerns. What happens if a drone crashes and starts a fire? Who will be responsible? Will weapons be tested? How will local airspace be shared? Primary among the citizen’s concerns were the threats to privacy posed by the testing program.
This past Saturday, October 26, BORDC was proud to be one of over a hundred co-sponsors of the Stop Watching Us Rally Against Mass Surveillance in Washington, DC. It was an inspiring testament of how people can bridge political divides in defense of our constitutional values, rights, and protection from warrantless surveillance.
The day started with an 11:30 gathering at Union Square, where several people were interviewed, explaining their concerns about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). Russ Tice, a former NSA agent turned whisteblower, discussed how he “blew the whistle on the NSA illegally and unconstitutionally spying domestically on the American people” in 2004. When asked what his hopes were for the demonstration he stated, “Hopefully Congress will pay attention and if we get the attention of the American people maybe they’ll wake up and realize that something has to be done about this, that this is a crime that is being committed against them, our citizens.”
This commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on October 21, 2013.
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!” Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone—or several someones—are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.
On Monday, August 12, New Yorkers won a historic victory with a federal court ruling that the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) use of stop and frisk policing violated the constitution. Judge Shira Scheindlin found the tactic, as had been argued by the plaintiffs and their attorneys, the Center for Constitutional Rights, violated both the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
To remedy the violations of rights that the court found had affected thousands of New Yorkers between 2004 and 2012, the Judge mandated a number of court supervised changes. The order imposes important reforms on the NYPD related to stop and frisk. The court appointed an independent monitor to oversee the process of bringing the NYPD’s tactics in line with the constitution, required trials of officer worn body cameras in each borough and mandated community input into the reform process. Police body worn cameras have shown excellent results reducing the use of force by police officers and complaints against them. In Rialto, California the use of cameras resulted in a 60% drop in the use of force by police officers.
However, to ensure better policing for all New Yorkers, it will still be crucial for the New York City Council to overturn the mayor’s veto on the two bills championed by Communities United for Police Reform. These bills will greatly expand profiling protections to insure that New Yorkers are not targeted by police for their identity and establish an Inspector General for the NYPD. The council is scheduled to vote on the veto override on August 22.
This commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on August 5, 2013.
Despite the steady hue and cry by government agencies about the need for more police, more sophisticated weaponry, and the difficulties of preserving the peace and maintaining security in our modern age, the reality is far different. Indeed, violent crime in America has been on a steady decline, and if current trends continue, Americans will finish the year 2013 experiencing the lowest murder rate in over a century.
Despite this clear referendum on the fact that communities would be better served by smaller, demilitarized police forces, police agencies throughout the country are dramatically increasing in size and scope. Some of the nation’s larger cities boast police forces the size of small armies. (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually likes to brag that the NYPD is his personal army.) For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has reached a total of 10,000 officers. It takes its place alongside other cities boasting increasingly large police forces, including New York (36,000 officers) and Chicago (13,400 officers). When considered in terms of cops per square mile, Los Angeles assigns a whopping 469 officers per square mile, followed by New York with 303 officers per square mile, and Chicago with 227 cops per square mile.
Of course, such heavy police presence comes at a price. Los Angeles spends over $2 billion per year on the police force, a 36% increase within the last eight years. The LAPD currently consumes over 55% of Los Angeles’ discretionary budget, a 9% increase over the past nine years. Meanwhile, street repair and maintenance spending has declined by 36%, and in 2011, one-fifth of the city’s fire stations lost units, increasing response times for 911 medical emergencies.
On July 29th, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), received a letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) responding to his questions around the Bureau’s use of drones. Sen. Paul made it clear that he will not pursue his inquiry further at this time, clearing the way for the eventual confirmation of James Comey to lead the Bureau.
But while the FBI’s letter does provide some meager answers, what is more notable about the correspondence between the Senator and the FBI is the lack of real information it reveals.
Much like National Security Agency (NSA) spying, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts, and other secret law, the government has made clear yet again that policies and procedures that purportedly protect civil liberties will not be revealed to the public. Perhaps the secrecy is because those policies do not, in fact, include adequate protections.
As we reported a few weeks ago, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, current FBI director Robert Mueller admitted that the FBI uses drones to conduct domestic surveillance. When questioned further, he admitted that the Bureau was only “in the initial stages” of developing policies and procedures for the drone program.
The day after the hearing, Senator Paul issued an open letter to Director Mueller asking for specifics on the program by July 1. He requested transparency on the secretive program, including the number of drones the FBI has, whether they are (or could be) armed, and what privacy protections are or will be in place. Unsurprisingly, the FBI declined to respond. Senator Paul sent a follow up letter on July 9th again requesting a response.
- 7/15, Staff, Associated Press, Journalist: Edward Snowden Has ‘Blueprints’ To NSA
- 7/15, Alexei Anishchuk and Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters, Russia’s Putin: signs Snowden is shifting on the U.S
- 7/15, Jim Finkle, Reuters, Researchers hack Verizon device, turn it into mobile spy station
- 7/15, Stephanie Clifford and Quentin Hardy, New York Times, Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell
- 7/15, Adam Liptak, New York Times, Double Secret Surveillance
- 7/14, Sara Sorcher, National Journal, Who Might Succeed Napolitano?
- 7/14, Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald, Guantánamo: 25 captives quit hunger strike since Ramadan
- 7/11, Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal, Airport Settles With Fourth Amendment Flasher
The passage of the bills is important both for the added protection they bring to New Yorkers and because it shows the power of the broad based organizing model employed by the coalition promoting the bill, Communities United for Police Reform. The legislative victory builds on decades of courageous work in the movements for police accountability and racial justice.
Both pieces of legislation passed by 34 or more votes, assuring that if the votes stay the same a threatened veto by Mayor Bloomberg can be overridden by the city council.
Two bills that would significantly reform oversight of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) are nearing a crucial vote. The bills are scheduled to be voted out of committee early next week will then face a vote on the floor of the New York City Council.
One bill would substantially broaden protections against profiling by police.
The other would appoint a commissioner at an independent agency to oversee the NYPD. These reforms have been championed by a broad based coalition, Communities United for Police Reform, that includes the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
actual or perceived race, national origin, color, creed, age, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or housing status as the determinative factor in initiating law enforcement action against an individual, rather than an individual’s behavior or other information or circumstances that links a person or persons to suspected unlawful activity.
The second bill would require that the commissioner of New York CIty’s Department of Investigations:
investigate, review, study, audit and make recommendations relating to the operations, policies, programs and practices, including ongoing partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, of the new york city police department with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness of the department, increasing public safety, protecting civil liberties and civil rights, and increasing the public’s confidence in the police force, thus building stronger police-community relations.
Both bills are crucial steps forward in the struggle to make the NYPD more accountable to the people of the city that it serves. New York City residents can call their council members to encourage them to support both bills when they come to the floor.
Click here to identify your council member and find an easy script to guide your phone call, along with other action tips.